By Justyn Fulton, Nov. 9, 2021

It is shocking to think two years ago, pre-pandemic, I had dreams of pursuing a master’s degree. The pandemic changed my perception of post education and my priorities have since shifted as a student leader. I no longer believe that I can find the passion needed to excel in a grad program.

I love being a leader at Cal Poly Pomona but my primary goal is a difficult one, as it aims to unify a separated community that only makes up 2% of the school’s population. This community that is 2% is the Black community.

Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

It’s difficult trying to graduate while simultaneously fearing leaving a job unfinished. The responsibility is an uphill battle and I feel like Atlas carrying the whole world on my shoulders. The weight generates doubt that someone after me is willing to take on the task. Who can I pass this to?

Since my first year at CPP, I’ve faced the mission of uniting the Black community. This mission has drained me physically and mentally, where I’ve been trying to push through this task with my gas tank on empty. This task has depleted me to the point where I feel that an undergraduate degree is the furthest I will go in terms of academics.

Over the pandemic I was tasked to keep two Black student organizations alive. I definitely had to keep the slight of hand when juggling my classes, the organizations and my health. The juggling act caused one thing to fall, which was one of the organizations called the Brothers Movement. Since I’m one of few Black student leaders on campus I can’t carry every single thing on my shoulder; something was bound to fall.

With the subtle return of in-person classes, it becomes discouraging for me to walk around campus and lead a group of students that I barely even see. For a campus to be ranked third in diversity for western universities and 2% of those students are Black leads me to question CPP’s diversity. Although, this statistic reflects that the campus is not upholding its core institutional values of diversity and inclusivity, I don’t feel a sense of urgency from the university to act on the decline of Black students.

This issue blinds me from envisioning myself in graduate school, making the weight feel unbearable on my shoulders.

It is important to counter the issue of poor representation of Black staff and Black students. In my mind, it is more important than any opportunity of graduate school for myself. If I can’t leave an impact at this school, how can I be worthy of pursuing other dreams?

One thing is for certain: I can’t be a student leader without being a student first. Just like every other student taking their fair share of classes, I took my most challenging ones during the pandemic. These classes challenged me to be 100% focused. Little did the professors know the struggles that I went through. With the loss of multiple family members prior and during the school year and a horrendous racial climate, I was to toughen up and kept trudging.

Just as others that have experienced loss in this pandemic it hasn’t been easy and adds to the burden.

When I think of these current stressors that I have, it makes me imagine what will replace them if I try to pursue a master’s degree. It also makes me question my ability to succeed if I try. In order to advance in life, I do understand that risks have to be made, but doubts are very powerful. I want to test the waters of graduate school but I’m doubtful that I will even see it through.

Today, as I continue up this hill, I’m torn about the decisions to give up my ambitions. Will I push through and pursue the grad degree?

I have no answers for that, so I just keep moving.

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